Nerve Damage Following Surgery

It can be a very worrying time when you have been told that you need to have an operation. You can worry about having the anaesthetic, your recovery time and even just about the thought of spending time in a hospital! But if you have had surgery and you wake up to be told that some of your nerves have been damaged, it can be terrifying.

We do understand how distressing this is for you and we can help you to talk about what has happened and then to decide if you would like to make a claim for medical negligence.

What do nerves do?
Nerves are networks of pathways which take information to the brain about how we feel and then relays information back to tell our muscles to contract, so our nerves are extremely important. 

What types of nerve damage are there?
Nerve damage has been classified into 3 types:

• Bruised nerve that stops working for a period of time. None of the nerve is cut and there is likely to be a full recovery with no issues
• The inner part of the nerve is damaged but the outer layer is not
• The nerve is completely severed (cut)

Nerves control many things, and damage to nerves can have an extremely serious and long lasting impact on your life.

Nerve damage repair
If you have suffered from nerve damage during surgery, you will have been advised about the type of damage your nerve has suffered. 

If your nerve has been completely severed, you will almost certainly need surgery to repair it.

Phrenic nerve injury
The phrenic nerves pass from the neck, down between the lungs and heart to one’s diaphragm. There are two of them and their primary purpose is to, in effect, tell the diaphragm when to contract (ie. when one breathes in). It is essential that during any thoracic surgery (ie any surgery affecting organs within the chest) the phrenic nerves are identified by the surgeon and avoided because if damage is caused to these nerves then one could be left unable to breathe without mechanical assistance. 

If the phrenic nerves are damaged they will not grow back and would need to be surgically repaired. 

Our experience 
Our medical negligence team will discuss your case with you to help you to understand if there is a claim for negligence following the damage to your nerves. We will do this is an easy and uncomplicated way so you completely understand your position legally.

Our experienced team has recovered compensation for hundreds of people just like you, so rest assured we can help you to achieve some closure.

What will it cost to make a claim?
We will offer you an appointment to discuss you claim with us and this will always be free of charge. We can do that over the phone or at one of our offices. 

During this appointment we will discuss all of the various methods available to you to be able to fund your claim and we will also give you advice on which one we thinks suits you best, and will achieve the best outcome for you.

This free consultation will allow you to decide if you would like to make a claim and you will be under no obligation to make one if you decide you are not happy. The consultation is still free regardless.

For more information or to speak to one of our friendly team for your free initial consultation, please call 0117 239 8012 or complete our online enquiry form.

Nerve damage following surgery FAQs

  • What is the phrenic nerve and what does it do?

    Many people have never heard of the phrenic nerve, although it is actually a very important part of your body - the phrenic nerve is situated next to the spinal cord in your neck but then branches out to the left and right, leaving the protection of the backbone and entering the chest and abdomen.

    What does the phrenic nerve do?

    The phrenic nerve, of which there is a left and a right, sends signals to your diaphragm from your brain. When your diaphragm moves, this either pulls or pushes air into your lungs and your phrenic nerve helps to keep your body breathing automatically.

    What happens if the phrenic nerve is damaged?

    If your phrenic nerve is damaged, the results can be extremely serious, causing severe medical complications.

    The most common ways in which the phrenic nerve can be damaged is by a traumatic injury to your neck or if either the left or right phrenic nerve is damaged when you are undergoing surgery on your chest or abdomen. Whilst the phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm, it also sends back important signals to the brain, which identifies if there is pain in the chest and how all of the organs are operating within the chest. These messages help the brain maintain respiration at normal levels. Some odd symptoms show up when the phrenic nerve is irritated. For example, hiccupping which is actually an involuntary movement of the diaphragm. Another symptom may be pain in the tip of the shoulder blade. However, the most common symptom of phrenic nerve damage is finding it difficult to breathe. Where one of the two phrenic nerves has been damaged, you will still be able to breathe, but it will be difficult. Damage to both nerves is an emergency as you will be unable to breathe without some form of mechanical assistance. 

    Can the phrenic nerve be repaired?

    Nerves are generally very good at regenerating and, with time, your nerve damage may improve. Often however, at least where the phrenic nerve is concerned, the damage caused is irreversible.

    If you have suffered from phrenic nerve damage as a result of an operation or an accident and you would like advice from a specialist solicitor please call our Clinical Negligence team on 0117 239 8012 who would be happy to help you.

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